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ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK Recap: T-T-T-Taystee, Taystee

The push-pull battle of life was alive and well in every storyline running through Orange is The New Black‘s second episode — “Looks Blue, Tastes Red.” What happens when you’re between two mothers, powerless when once powerful, old when once young, and on and on. Free and not free — I mean, shit: that’s life, right? There are countless times when we’re all stuck between (or transitioning between) two diametrically opposed spaces. To say nothing of the added complication that sometimes the looks of either side may be deceiving. Those battles are permanent, never-ending, and constant for the ladies of Litchfield. And guess what? It makes for a lot of story. Even more so than the premiere episode, “Thirsty Bird.”

First, we have to admit: going a whole episode sans Piper was actually kind of nice, wasn’t it? Particularly because it focused almost entirely on one of our favorite inmates, Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson, while introducing the latest Litchfield addition (in a deliciously dramatic fashion): Vee.

The first thing we have to do is talk about the casting of Baby Taystee. SO ADORABLE and spot-on, right? She even managed to match some of adult Taystee’s mannerisms and movements. It was impressive. Through Baby Taystee we were not only introduced to how Tasha got her nickname, but also showed us the connection between Vee and Litchfield — and the roots run deep. The drug-pushing matriarch — and complicated, tough-as-nails surrogate mom to Taystee — lived her life ensnaring children from group homes into her web of drug trafficking and selling in exchange for dinner and a place to sleep. Is this what prison frenemies look like? (Actually it’s not much different from frenemies anywhere else in life.)

Taystee, we see, managed to hold out from joining the pseudo-family business for years. She worked hard — at a fast food restaurant — in order to toe the right line and do the right thing. It’s heartbreaking to see someone like Taystee, in particular, fail just because she has showcased potential for her entire life, only to have that potential squandered by the struggle and hustle to survive.

Like at the job fair. Which netted neither jobs nor was it really a mock job fair! There was a potential for something instructional and informative here, but all that ended up was, well, a mockery. Taystee knew how to game the system to her advantage (she picked last year’s winning outfit), and busted her ass to nail a mock job interview in order to be set up with a real job. But that job didn’t exist, despite rumors she may have heard to the contrary. Once again the promise of “if you work hard you’ll succeed” was squashed with a swift, eye-roll-y quip from Fig. Just like in life: hard work by itself rarely makes someone upwardly mobile in this society. Particularly if you’re not white.

Which felt like one of many prejudices held by the woman from Dress for Success. I mean, she was kind of a jerk, right? Placating and patronizing these women, she lied and cajoled them into thinking the choices they were making were not only the right choices, but their own, and great, only to be told the opposite, later, in humiliated fashion on stage.

It felt more like a cattle show than anything else. The women all made the best of it — because of course they did — but we couldn’t help but feel the annoyance that those like Leanne, Lorna, and the others felt when the only options they had to work with were completely inappropriate and designed to make the wearer fail. Certainly there should always be dos and don’ts in a presentation such as this, but to lie to them, insisting they look good only to later cut them down in front of everyone, highlighting how awful and terrible the choices they made were? It felt particularly cruel and wildly indicative of how this system works against those it is intended to serve.

Odds and Ends:
– Speaking of particularly cruel: Pennsatucky returned this episode, her mouth better (and therefore crazier) than ever.
– In the battle of the moms, Daya had her real mother, Aleida, and Gloria Mendoza essentially battling it out for her attention.
– How far along do we think Daya is at this point? Anyone know?
– Red has been having a rough go of it after losing control of the kitchen, hasn’t she?
– Not only is she suffering with being no longer an asset to her prison family, her real-life family is suffering, too, now that has Neptune lost the prison produce contract.
– A+ use of full frontal male nudity.
– If OITNB can do it, your time to up the ante is nigh, Game of Thrones!

So, how much do we love Vee (in that we’re totally terrified of her in that same breath)? What’d you think of the episode? Let’s discuss it in the comments (or on Twitter)!

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